The NASCAR Sprint Cup series kicks off a brand new season of racing with the running of Sunday’s Daytona 500 from the fabled Daytona International Speedway. All the action is set to get underway at 1:30 p.m., and the race will be broadcast nationally on FOX. Here we will provide some Daytona 500 picks and betting predictions to help you with your wagers.
The Daytona 500 is not only NASCAR’s biggest event of the year; but it is one of the hardest to handicap. The odds are set longer for all the drivers given the added weight of actually winning the Great American Race along with the fact that their current form remains relatively unknown since this is the first race of the year.
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Nonetheless, I have forged ahead with my own handicapping efforts to release my top favorite, contender and longshot to win this season’s Daytona 500 based on the current odds listed on Sportsbook.ag.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. has posted just one Sprint Cup victory in his past five seasons, but you cannot help but get the feeling that he is due in this race after finishing second in the Daytona 500 in both 2012 and 2013. He is one of five drivers listed at +1000 to win on Sunday, which right now are the lowest odds on the board. The No. 88 car finished in fifth place in last season’s Sprint Cup standings on the strength of 10 Top-5 finishes, and it ran a very productive Chase with four Top-3 finishes in the 10-race playoff. Looking at his career stats at Daytona, Junior has won here twice, including the 2004 Daytona 500, and he has an average finishing position of 13.8. Even if you do not go with the No. 88 car to win, I would highly recommend a play on his odds for finishing in the Top 3.
With drivers such as Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth, Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick also listed at +1000 to win on Sunday, I am going with Brad Keselowski at +1200 as my top contender to win at Daytona. This will be just his fifth full season racing in the Sprint Cup series, but he has already proven that he is the real deal by winning the 2012 title. The No. 2 car won five point races that season along with 18 additional Top-10 finishes. Maybe all this instant success went to his head after suffering a lingering hangover last season that kept this team out of the Chase altogether, but I am banking on a return to form starting this Sunday. In nine previous Sprint Cup races at this track, Keselowski has only cracked the Top 5 once, but it was with a fourth-place finish in last year’s Daytona 500.
The Daytona 500 is a bit more conducive to playing a driver with longer odds than a typical Sprint Cup race, but they are still hard to come by. Looking down the list, the one name that did stand out was Carl Edwards at +2000. The 2013 season was pretty forgettable for the No. 99 race team with a 13th-place finish in the standings after a disappointing performance in the Chase. However, he did win twice and finish in the Top 5 in seven other races. He remains an excellent driver that could be in for a rebound with a big win on Sunday. Edwards actually finished in a tie with Tony Stewart for the 2011 Sprint Cup title, but he lost on a tie-breaker based on total wins. His track record has been spotty at best at Daytona with an average finishing position of 18.2, but he has finished in the Top 10 in six of his last nine Sprint Cup races here.
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